Puttering around in the kitchen listening to crickets and cicadas while I cut, chop, baste and stir is heavenly for me. This time of year brings me a deep satisfaction somehow, as the pace of life begins to quicken again. I have this sense of something about to happen.
It also saddens me, because another summer (so precious to us northerners!) is on the wane.
When I was a teenager, my mother and I often took walks together after dark this time of year. It was a chance for me to share my hopes for the school year ahead and my dreams for a time beyond school. We'd often choose a neighborhood to the northeast of Frenchtown, where the houses, built after 1915, were mostly shingled bungalows or 1920's-style cottages. Catching a glimpse of someone else's evening through an unshuttered window captured my imagination, and it is an image that has stayed with me for many years.
These days I sit on my side porch, or my newly-built (but yet unpainted) front porch and watch the street lights create pools of light in the evening. Occasionally, I will see a dog walker or jogger. My house is more than 110 years old now, and I often wonder about others who have sat on that porch watching night fall in years past. Did they feel the mix of contentment and sadness I feel this time of year?
Sunday was a day for sunshine and crickets, nightfall and porch sitting.
Our dinner of chicken, tomatoes and peppers was simple but comforting. The best part was the juice from the bottom of the roasting pan. I knew when I caught its aroma (and sneaked a spoonful) that I would be making soup Sunday night.
Easy Mediterranean Vegetable Soup
2 cups chicken stock
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup lentils
2 cups water
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, Italian style
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
dash freshly-ground pepper
dash fleur de sel
Place olive oil, butter and onion in skillet; brown slightly. Add chicken stock, water and lentils. Bring to a boil and lower heat, simmering for about 30 minutes. Add tomatoes and carrots. Cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, adding zucchini as carrots begin to soften. Simmer at least 20 minutes longer, adding salt and pepper.
I expect to get at least four meals out of this. My husband is not a vegetable soup fan, but even he admitted this smelled heavenly while simmering.
I used Lentils de Puy, purchased last year in Paris. Wonderful! I'll have to pick up another bag next month at Carrefour or Leclerc.
The soup lasted all week. I paired it with goat cheese and roasted pepper on crusty rolls.